HMCS Niobe (1897)

Niobe c.1910-15. Photo in the collection of the US Library of Congress.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

HMS Niobe was a Diadem-class protected cruiser, laid down in 1895. Commissioned 6 December, 1898, Niobe spent several years escorting troop transports during and after the Boer War. Niobe also escorted the Royal Yacht in the Atlantic, before she was placed in reserve in October, 1902, and spent the next seven years in that state. A refit in 1908 saw Niobe back in active service for about a year, but she was handed over to Canada, becoming HMCS Niobe, and the first large warship in Canadian inventory in January, 1910. Niobe didn't get off to a great start with the Canadians: she was harbor bound for several months until it was decided whether the Canadians were allowed to operate without the Royal Navy, then when she finally did get underway, Niobe immediately ran onto a reef, nearly sinking the ship. Six months of repairs later, she was back but with a limp; her speed was permanently reduced due to the damage. Niobe spent most of her time sitting around, and her condition was pretty poor by 1913. Nonetheless, Niobe began patrols of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in September, 1914, due to the outbreak of the Great War. She covered the deployment of Canadian troops to garrison Bermuda, but developed more mechanical problems during the trip that put her out of action for a week. Niobe was then involved in hunting German ships off the US, and forced the interning of the raider SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich in Virginia. By July, 1915, Niobe was in terrible shape: her funnels were barely intact, her engines were worn out, and the bulkheads were of questionable integrity. Niobe was made a depot ship in Halifax, and remained there for the rest of the War. On 6 December, 1917, some of Niobe's crew were killed trying to scuttle the SS Mont Blanc when that ammunition ship caught fire. The resulting blast, now known as the Halifax Explosion, damaged Niobe further, besides the devastating effect on the port. Niobe was sold for scrap in 1920, and broken up in Philadelphia in 1922.

Bonus Photos

Niobe drydocked in Halifax c.1911. Photo in the Notman Studio of Halifax collection of the Library and Archives Canada.